Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Disease of Statistics: Part 3

Apologies for it almost taking a month to finish my three-part series.  In the first two parts, we talked about how statistics and the brass have changed the job, making it less fun to do and more prone to arm-twisting and cop hating.  However all of these things, while terrible aren't going to actually hurt any cops.  Ironically, the biggest danger is other cops.

So there is a program called Operation Impact.  I first heard of it when white people started moving to Hamilton Heights.  This is a neighborhood that is between Morningside Heights to the south and Washington Heights.  This area was called Harlem, before the real estate brokers got ahold of it.  Anyway, they put cops on foot posts on every block to make sure white people didn't get hit over the head and get their shit taken.  Pretty simple work.  Actually, the drug dealers up there kept felony weight on them, so they were quite nice and responsive when asked to move along.

Impact proved successful and soon they had rookies from precincts all over the city doing Impact tours at crime hotspots in the city.  This started as a once or twice a week and then expanded.  Currently, rookies can get assigned directly to Impact from the Academy where they are assigned to a footpost.  They aren't allowed to handle radio runs, which is job parlance for the calls that come in from 911.  Handling jobs is how you learn to be a police officer.  Working in a radio car with another officer is how you grow as a cop.  And these officers are learning nothing about that.  They are simply ticket writing machines who are a police presence.  Much like the police car with the dummy at the bottom of the hill to dissuade speeders.

And these officers, who don't work out of a precinct and don't have the benefit of senior officers who treat them like crap but watch out for them and tell them when they're doing things wrong or right, they take promotional tests.  And they become Sergeants.  And as Sergeants, they don't have any idea of what they're doing.  They don't have the confidence or the backbone to make tough calls on the street, leaving the officer to hang in the wind.

Recently, I heard a story from a detective who I knew as a cop who said he showed up at the scene of an officer involved shooting.  The shooting was "good" meaning the cop was justified.  And a supervisor showed up to the scene and noticed that the officer was wearing exposed handcuffs and a nylon belt instead of the fake leather one.  The nylon belt is much lighter and more comfortable, but not approved by the Equipment Section probably because it isn't completely flammable like their other wares.  They gave the officer a 10-day hit, which is to say he loses 10 vacation days.  5 for the cuffs and 5 for the belt.  Allow me to remind you that this guy who now has less vacation shot and killed a man about 30 minutes before this jackass decided to discipline him.

This is my fear for the job.  That a rookie boss with no concept of police work, orders his or her cops to do something dangerous, like not waiting for other officers.  Or, worse, is cowardly and leads from behind in critical situations.  This issue though is not on the radar of the NYPD.  To the city, low morale isn't a problem, but higher crime is.  However, lower morale results in poor interactions with the public.  Also you get cops willing to lock up citizens for things like videotaping them or other legal actions.

There are days I miss the job terribly.  But then I remember that I kept the best parts, the people and the stories, and the City of New York can keep the rest which is not worth keeping.